'We want the best for them' - Norfolk schools ready for pupils' return

Diss Church of England Junior Academy

All pupils will be back in classes at Diss Church of England Junior Academy from March 8. - Credit: St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust

“We are looking forward to the children returning,” says Chris Read, interim headteacher of The Bishop’s CE Primary Academy in Thetford, of the reopening of school on March 8.

“Obviously, there will be some anxieties for children, teachers and children but we have worked together to ensure that everyone understands the measures we have taken to reduce the risk of infection within the school.”

Norfolk’s 422 schools are putting final touches to preparations for thousands of pupils to be safely back in classrooms for the first time since the Christmas break. 

Education bosses say they are confident all Norfolk's schools are ready to welcome all children back to the classroom from next week.

Chris Read, interim headteacher of The Bishop’s CE Primary Academy in Thetford.

Chris Read, interim headteacher of The Bishop’s CE Primary Academy in Thetford. - Credit: DNEAT

Like all primary schools, all 419 of Bishop’s Primary pupils will be back in face-to-face lessons on Monday after weeks of homeschooling.  

“We have worked hard to support families with home learning and know how hard parents have worked to help their children to make progress,” said Mr Read. 

“The experience of the last year will allow us to get the balance right between responding to the children’s emotional needs and helping fill the most significant gaps in their learning.

"We want to safely establish school routines and sensible delivery of a curriculum that engages and meets the needs of the children.”

St Benets Multi Academy Trust chief executive Richard Cranmer (left) with Robert Connelly headteacher of Archbishop...

St Benets Multi Academy Trust chief executive Richard Cranmer (left) with Robert Connelly headteacher of Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston. - Credit: James Bass Photography

Richard Cranmer, chief executive of St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust, said: “Headteachers and their staff have been working this week on the final preparations for Monday and the wider reopening of schools. 

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“As you would expect, at the heart of this work has been the reviewing of risk assessments and the operational planning to ensure that our children and staff can all return as safely as possible.

“Our initial focus across all of our academies will be to support the well-being of our children and to enable them to adjust to school life and re-engage with face to face learning in the classroom environment along with their peers. 

Diss Church of England Junior Academy

Diss Church of England Junior Academy will again see children in class bubbles and small groups when school reopen. - Credit: St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust

“Every one of us can’t wait for the classrooms, corridors and playgrounds to come alive again with the sounds of children learning and playing together - and that prospect is now only a few days away.”

Laura Richardson, a Year 3 teacher and maths lead at Diss CE Junior Academy, which is managed by the trust, said: “The most recent lockdown provided a new set of challenges, both for the children and us as teachers. 

“We had to contend with short days and miserable weather as well as the disappointment of returning to home schooling after the positivity from being back to school.”

Diss Infant and Nursery School will see a return to face-to-face teaching after weeks of home schooling. 

Diss Infant and Nursery School will see a return to face-to-face teaching after weeks of home schooling. - Credit: St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust

She added: “We feel that we have really risen to the challenge and built upon our experience from the first lockdown to provide even better provision for our children and all of our staff are really proud of what we have achieved. Despite this, We are really excited to be having our classes back in school. 

“However well home learning went, it is not a substitute for real teaching and we, as teachers, did not join the profession to sit behind a computer all day."

Returning children will again be grouped into class bubbles or small groups, with one-way systems, hand sanitisers and extra cleaning.

Diss Church of England Junior Academy.

Diss Church of England Junior Academy. - Credit: St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust

Primary school pupils will not be tested for coronavirus. Staff take two lateral flow tests a week.

“We are confident in the procedures that we have in place to keep pupils and staff safe and just can’t wait to work face to face with the children again,” said Ms Richardson.

The guidance for secondary schools and colleges says all students will take three tests at “existing school testing facilities'' and then move on to twice-weekly home testing kits. It also recommends that students wear masks at all times 

Rob Connelly, headteacher of Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston, said: “We must remember, this is not a ‘lost generation’ of children but an incredibly special generation who deserve all we can give them once the school family is back together.”

Diss Church of England Junior Academy

Face-to-face lessons will back at Diss Church of England Junior Academy after weeks of homeschooling. - Credit: St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust

Parent’s view on school reopening

Nina Green, who has two children at Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston, said: “My children are very excited about going back to school to see their friends and restore some normality in their lives. 

“Whilst they may be a little apprehensive about the lateral flow testing, they understand it is vital to ensure they can continue to learn in a place safe for everyone. 

“For me, there is no doubt the school environment is the best place for my children to receive their education and I believe it is so important for them to have that social contact with their friends.”

Heather Gubb, whose daughter attends Thomas Bullock CE Academy in Shipdham, part of DNEAT (Diocese of Norwich Education & Academies Trust), said: “It is fantastic news that schools are reopening and I have no concerns around my daughter’s safety. 

“Although online lessons have been to a good standard they do not make up for a full school day, my daughter is missing the social aspects of school and the benefits that normal social interactions bring.”

Victoria Proctor, another parent at Thomas Bullock, said: “We are looking forward to our two eldest children heading back into the physical school environment.

"We are confident the school will continue to do their utmost to keep all the school community as safe as possible, and know that the children will benefit greatly on many levels from interacting once again with their peers and teachers alike.”

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